Entirely fair

The US is withdrawing from the United Nations human rights council, the Trump administration announced on Tuesday, calling it a “cesspool of political bias” that targets Israel in particular while ignoring atrocities in other countries.

The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said she had traveled to the council’s headquarters in Geneva a year ago to call for reforms, to no avail.

“Regrettably it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded,” Haley told reporters at the state department. “Human rights abusers continue to serve on, and be elected to, the council.”

Sensible even – we should do the same.

Yes, this is the one where Saudi Arabia ran the women’s section or summat.

Tories put my achievement at risk

There are two political/economic achievements I can claim. Not that I achieved them alone, but there was very definitely a part in them for me. Suggesting, convincing people at the right points in the policy development process. And one of them is at risk:

It is understood that a freeze on tax thresholds is being considered as one option to pay for up to £10bn of the extra annual cash injection. This would, however, mean another big policy U-turn by the Tories, who are committed to raising the tax-free threshold to £12,500 and increasing the level at which people pay high-rate tax to £50,000 by April 2020.

The point I made was quite simple. The difference between the Living Wage and the minimum wage is, pretty much entirely, down to the taxation of low wages. If people received the minimum wage free of income tax (and it’s a slam dunk if it’s free of both NIs) then they would, in their hands, have what the Living Wage insists they should get. We’d also reduce the far too high marginal tax and benefit withdrawal rates, increasing labour supply, make the poor better off and so on.

Plus there’s that moral point, if minimum wage is the minimum that it’s just and righteous that people should gain for their labour then what in buggery are you doing taxing it?

So, the tax allowance should be whatever the minimum wage is. That’s why the aim is that £12,500, that’s what the full year, full time, minimum wage was when the policy was adopted.

Working against that we’ve the fact that fiscal drag is just too tempting a place to go get tax money. Which is why we ended up in this ludicrous situation in the first place, with people working part time on minimum wage playing taxes upon labour income in the first place. Several decades of such fiscal drag.

So, of course I think they’re doing the wrong thing here. But then I’m also right, they are doing the wrong thing. Because if you want the poor to be better off you have to stop taxing them.

Dame Margaret, Lady Hodge

She has been one of the fiercest critics of companies and institutions which fritter away taxpayers’ money.

But now the veteran Labour MP, Dame Margaret Hodge, is seeking a salary for a voluntary post at a university, it has emerged.

Dame Margaret, the former chair of the public accounts committee, applied to be Chair of Council at Royal Holloway, University of London, which was advertised as an unpaid position.

However, sources have claimed that the former minister said that she would only take up the post if it came with an income of £20,000 per annum.

Dame Margaret, who has served as MP for Barking since 1994, was honoured by the Queen in 2015 for her political and public services.

A source told The Sunday Telegraph said that the university role “attracted well over 100 good applicants when it was advertised. So lots of capable people wanted to volunteer to give back to support the University.

“Royal Holloway University’s statutes, or laws, forbids the University from paying their Chair of the Council a salary. The post has to be done for free. This did not deter our Labour MP who is not willing to do the job for nothing, even though it had been advertised as a voluntary job. A very socialist approach to volunteering and the public good.”

Ritchie doesn’t give evidence without cash support either. What is it?

And yes, when asked to give expert evidence to aid in jugging some criminals I did indeed do it for free.

Telling others how to parent

A High Court judge has criticised a social worker who took a child away from his mother because she refused to give him an ice cream.

The social worker said the woman was failing to meet her son’s “emotional needs”, and also highlighted how she did not allow him to get his hair to be cut “in the way that he liked”.

Mr Justice Mostyn, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, said the social worker’s criticisms were “utterly insubstantial” and “obviously inconsequential”.

The judge said the social worker had outlined her evidence in a 44-page witness statement which was “very long on rhetoric” but “very short indeed” on “concrete examples” of “deficient” parenting.

He said it was “very hard” to pin down within the “swathes of text” what exactly was being said “against” the woman.

We’ve two problems with this idea that the State is in loco parentis.

One is the quality of the people likely to do the job. This is not just me being a gammon, those working in the front line of these sort of state services are not going to be the brightest and best of our society. The other is the beliefs they’re going to hold. Rather the point for some is that such state parenting – like state anything else, education and so on – is going to be determined by the “correct” views. You know, those they’d like to impose upon society and which no one will give the time of day to in the real world.

Our truly great problem here being that we also undoubtedly need some form of child protection because there are some truly appalling, even evil, parents out there. Thus, how do we do the protection bit that actually needs to be done without handing over the entirety of society to the ideologically driven incompetents? And that such services are run by the ideological incompetents is easily enough proven. Just look at the rules about race and adoption….

Well done to the LGA

If you want to have a look at the details of their new report:

The government’s right-to-buy scheme risks running out of homes unless councils are given funding to build more, a report has warned.

Research by the Local Government Association found local authorities only have enough money to replace less than one-third of the number of homes sold over the past six years.

You go here to find:

The full report by Savills, commissioned by the LGA, is available on request.


Media office contact
Mike Tighe
020 7664 3333

To get:

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And people say there’s nothing wrong with local government in the UK, eh?

Which worries you more here?

Judge Owens said the woman was a qualified nurse, but had an ‘extremely low range’ of intellectual inability.

She said an independent social worker had prepared a report after observing mother and son.

‘The independent social worker highlighted some of the concerns around [the woman’s] ability to meet the needs of [the boy],’ said the judge in her ruling.

‘These include … not feeding [the boy] in an appropriate position, not changing [his] nappy appropriately, and placing [his] nappy changing mat very close to a metal table leg when [he] was moving around on the mat.’

Judge Owens said the social worker watched the woman, ‘spend about an hour holding [the boy] who was sitting in the Bob The Builder car’.

The social worker had told how the woman ‘maintained limited eye contact and communication’ and said the Bob The Builder toy car was ‘inappropriate’ for his age because there was ‘a potential risk of [the boy] falling if [the woman] lost control of him’.

To qualify as a nurse a student usually takes a degree course for which they generally need an A Level in biology or another science.

Courses are made up of work placements, lectures, exams and practical tests.

So, what worries?

That the state decides to take children from dim bulbs? Or that dim bulbs can and do qualify as nurses?

My word isn’t this a surprising argument?

The news that despite making up only 9% of overall applicants to the university admissions service Ucas, black students in the UK make up more than half of those flagged for possible fraud, has understandably outraged many. In other words, they were 21 times more likely to have their applications investigated than their white counterparts.

There is legitimate anger being directed towards Ucas from political figures, students, educators and communities across the country over this data, especially given its failure to explain the shocking racial disparity. But I believe we are only touching the surface of a deep-seated issue that has existed within our education system for a very long time – institutional racism.

Really, who could expect such a diagnosis from such a source?

Malia Bouattia is a presenter for British Muslim TV’s #WomenLikeUs and was president of the National Union of Students from 2015-16

Blimey, isn’t this a surprise?

As a chartered town planner since 2011, I know all too well what people think of my profession. And as a district councillor in Lichfield, I am also acutely aware of the challenges council planning teams face.

So it was good to see Grand Design’s Kevin McCloud speaking up for underpaid, undervalued council planners.

Just such a surprise to see someone arguing for moar money for people like me.

How is Facebook to know who is a parent?

Facebook and other social media websites should require parents to confirm that their children are over the age of 13 before they are allowed to use the websites.

Matt Hancock, the Culture Secretary, criticised social media websites for only requiring children to tick a box to confirm that they are over the age of 13.

He said that social media means it is “one of the hardest times to be a parent”, with children using new technology that “we couldn’t have dreamed of” a generation ago.

So, how will it be done? Other than just ticking a box that is. Anyone going to have to start providing birth certificates or something?

Sigh. Either the system becomes horribly and expensively intrusive by requiring real world documentation. Or it’s just box ticking.

The young people of today, eh?

Highly-addictive video games risk having a “damaging” impact on children’s lives, the Culture Secretary has warned after parents raised concerns about a hugely popular multi-player “survival shooter”.

Fortnite, a video game which pits 100 players against each other and is free to play on mobile phones and games consoles, has proved hugely popular with children and teenagers.

The game has been downloaded more than 40 million times since its launch in July 2017 and been endorsed by a raft of celebrities, including Premier League footballers and chart-topping US rappers.

What would a Culture Secretary have to do all day if it weren’t for the repeated insistences of apres moi la deluge?

Bugger reality say the Lords

Britain needs to lead the way on artificial intelligence regulation, in order to prevent companies such as Cambridge Analytica setting precedents for dangerous and unethical use of the technology, the head of the House of Lords select committee on AI has warned.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal, Lord Clement-Jones said, reinforced the committee’s findings, released on Monday in the report “AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?”

“These principles do come to life a little bit when you think about the Cambridge Analytica situation,” he told the Guardian. “Whether or not the data analytics they carried out was actually using AI … It gives an example of where it’s important that we do have strong intelligibility of what the hell is going on with our data.”

To translate. “I’ll use some random passing event to bolster my call for me to have more power.”

Yes, and?

Military families have been given £246m of taxpayers’ money over the past three years to subsidise their children’s private education, it has emerged.

Elite schools such as Eton, Harrow and Gordonstoun alone received nearly £2 million last year, under a Ministry of Defence scheme which helps servicemen and women pay school fees.

It’s a standard part of military pay, and has been for generations.

The MoD wants to be able to pick up units and place them in various places around the world at will. Thus is subsidises the British education of British children in the British school system. The alternative is to have schools up to A level standard on every base around the world that families might get posted to. Quite possibly the more expensive option.

There’s a useful way at kicking back at those who would dismantle this system. Just point out that the Diplomatic corps gets a better (more of the fees are paid) deal than the military and just watch the FCO quash any attempt to end the system.

Caveat Emptor

A graduate is suing her university, claiming boasts in its prospectus about high quality teaching and excellent career prospects were fraudulently misleading after she ended up with a “mickey mouse” degree.

Pok Wong, 29, is seeking more than £60,000 in damages from Anglia Ruskin University for what she says was a breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation.

But it is a mickey mouse degree……

A useful form of rationing

So it’s time to challenge the university shibboleth of the more the merrier. Using better data, we should decide on the right number and reintroduce a cap on student numbers in conjunction with social quotas for every university. These must ensure that places are reserved for young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

Say, 10% of the age cohort and that’s your lot?

Erm, as we did 40 years ago?

The joy being that we get to sack 80% of the current professoriate.

Why those empty homes?

On a short street in London’s travel zone one, where residential skyscrapers rise as symbols of the city’s affordable housing crisis, four family homes stand empty. Three are owned by Southwark council, which has 11,000 families on its waiting list for social housing. They have been “voids”, as the council describes them, for more than six months, the government’s definition of long-term empty. No 20 has been empty for more than two and a half years. The fourth house, which can be traced to an Italian commodities trader, has been empty for almost a decade.

They’re going to sell it/them apparently.

But there we have it, empty homes etc. And – agreed, very limited sample – 75% of the problem is councils taking too damn long. Comrade Corby’s plan to nick that one off the Italian isn’t going to be the solution, is it?

The NFU’s double prong

The government must not allow farming standards to slip or be undermined by bad trade deals after Brexit, the National Farmers’ Union has said in a reference to fears that food standards will be sacrificed to seal deals with the US.

Those who advocate a “cheap food policy” should bear in mind the price that is paid in terms of standards, traceability of produce and shifting the environmental impact to other countries, the NFU’s president will say at the union’s annual conference where delegates and politicians including the environment secretary, Michael Gove, will meet on Tuesday.

Anything to maintain he subsidies. Including insisting upon certain standards that can only be met through subsidy…..

Better by far to open the floodgates. And those who want those higher standards can pay for them, those who don’t also have the choice.

There’s a solution to this

Westminster city council’s deputy leader has emerged as a contender for the title of the most schmoozed politician in Britain, receiving entertainment, meals and gifts more than 500 times in the last three years.

From tickets to the hottest West End shows to exclusive dinners in London’s finest restaurants and trips to the south of France, the official declarations reveal an extraordinary lifestyle that included one day in Mallorca, when Robert Davis managed two lunches, the first at the home of Andrew Lloyd Webber and the second at the home of the Earl of Chichester.

Davis, the Conservative deputy leader of the central London borough and until last year the chairman of its powerful planning committee, was entertained by and received gifts from property industry figures at least 150 times since the start of 2015 – a rate of almost once a week.

If such a politician didn’t have so much economic power then rather fewer people would attempt to suck up to him. So, reduce the power of the politicians.

We should await Chris Snowdon’s take on this

Keep an eye on here.

The average Briton consumes 50 per cent more calories than they think they do, according to the first estimates from the Office for National Statistics.

The new data show that men are the worst at kidding themselves – typically consuming 1,000 more calories than they estimate every day – while women eat about 800 calories more than they account for.

My first take is:

The new PHE advice, in the One You nutrition campaign, will say adults should limit lunches and dinners to 600 calories each, with 400 calories for breakfast.

Those behind the campaign say overall recommended daily consumption levels are unchanged- at 2000 calories for women and 2500 for men – but that the guidance is a “rule of thumb” to help people cut back.

This is still markedly (like, 20%) lower than wartime minimum ration.

It still ain’t that we’re all eating more.